Most kidney transplants involved a deceased donor, but doctors say it's always preferable to get a live donor. In this case, the kidney transplant involved two live donors with uncommon blood types and the recipients were the other donor's brother.
"This is not unique, it's rare," says. Dr. William Marks, head of the organ transplant department at Swedish and leader of the surgical team that performed the operation.
The double swap kidney transplant resulted when two sets of donors wanted to give their kidneys to their ailing brothers. Layne Smith of Seattle had both his kidneys removed earlier this year after being diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. His older brother, Gary Smith of Missoula, Montana didn't hesitate to offer his kidney for transplant to his brother but blood tests determined that it would be an impossible match.
Ironically, there was a similar situation in Yakima. Jason Baum was suffering from renal failure and was on course for total kidney failure unless he had a transplant. His older brother Devon didn't hesitate to offer a kidney for transplant into Jason. But as was the case with the Smith brothers, blood tests showed Jason and Devon where not a match.
That's when a staffer at Swedish's organ donor program realized that a cross swap would be possible between the two sets of brothers. Gary Smith's kidney could be transplanted into Jason Baum, and Devon Baum's kidney could go into Layne Smith. The uncommon blood types worked in their favor.
"I'd never heard of it before and I really thought that would really have to take a miracle for all four people to participate," says Kara Smith, the wife of donor Gary Smith.
Both brothers agreed to donate their gift of live to the other donor's brother and that made the surgery a go.
"He's really saving two lives 'cause he's giving someone a kidney and giving my husband a chance to have a kidney," says Sandy Baum, the wife of kidney recipient Jason Smith and talking about her brother in law Devon.
With two sets of brothers heading into surgery, it posed an interesting dilemma to parents who were at the hospital.
"When they both went their separate ways, well, which son are you going to go with?" said Connie Rogers,t he mother of the Baum brothers. "I went up with Devon until he went into surgery and I've been up with Jason until he goes in."
During the surgery, anxious family members waited for word the double swap was a go. Medical ethics could have prevented the entire swap from going forward if one of the two couldn't happen.
"You just hope that faith comes through on things like this and it's worked out for both of these families absolutely perfectly", says Bobbie Smith, the son of donor Gary Smith.
According to family members, the doctors say the double swap went exactly as planned. Both sets of brothers are said to be recovering and could be released from the hospital on Thursday.